Interactive e-learning: The Bad and Good

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‘Interactive’: what does it actually mean? It’s often bandied about when e-learning courses are involved, yet are these courses really as interactive as they should be?

e-Courses that are truly interactive have the power to transform learning and content into meaningful experiences for learners. They help learners retain content longer, allowing them to actively process and apply content to their everyday lives.

There are many positive outcomes from truly interactive courses. Passive courses only result in a 5 to 30 percent knowledge retention rate, whilst learners of real interactive courses retain anywhere from 50 to 90 percent. Furthermore as the learning is interactive learners are able to interpret and summarise information rather than just memorising it. This means that they are able to process content and apply concepts.

However many courses state that they are interactive when they are only online. Clicking next, over using sound or animation and providing too much content aren’t interactive features. These features only appear to be interactive and in reality do more harm than good.  For example over using sound or animation only distracts the learner and directs them away from the content they should be learning.

To be a successful e-learning course it needs to be interactive. Good interactivity has to have a purpose – it needs to be engaging without being confusing or irritating. There are several ways of designing interactive courses that increase understanding and retention:

  • Use compelling stories to guide the learner through a course – engaging learners
  • Create an activity where learners can discuss, collaborate and learn together (e.g. forums, chat rooms) – as people learn better in groups
  • Simulations of events/activities where learners can change variables and ultimately the result – learning from mistakes or correct actions

Don’t just use the word ‘interactive’ if you don’t provide truly interactive courses. Think about how to structure learning and how to make it engaging. Don’t forget it doesn’t need to be big and flashy to be interactive.